Robert Mueller testifies
Former special counsel Robert Mueller testified today before the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees.
We're wrapping up our live coverage of his testimony.
In case you missed it, here are the key takeaways from his second hearing:
- Right at the outset, Mueller clarified the most significant exchange from earlier in the day. He did not intend to say they did not indict the president because of the OLC guidance. He clarified that he meant that because of the OLC guidance there was no decision either way on whether to indict.
- In clear and concise language, Mueller reminded the panel why his investigation matters: “We spent substantial time ensuring the integrity of the report understanding that it would be our living -- a message to those who come after us. But it also is a signal, a flag to those of us who have some responsibility in this area to exercise those responsibilities swiftly and don't let this problem continue to linger as it has over so many years.”
- Mueller defended not subpoenaing the President because of the prolonged process to fight over it. But asked if anyone tried to stop it, Mueller made clear they could have subpoenaed if they wanted to.
- Mueller condemned the behavior of the President and his son. On Trump’s WikiLeaks comments, Mueller said “problematic is an understatement." An exchange between Donald Trump, Jr. and WikiLeaks was “Disturbing and also subject to investigation." At another point, to Rep. Demings, he refused to weigh in on the President’s credibility. He also said he felt the president was not truthful in his written answers.
- A tantalizing exchange: Asked to assert there was no evidence of an allegation that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange, Mueller did not deny it, but rather said “ I'm not sure I agree with that assumption.” (Manafort attorney declined comment)
- Will this ever be put to rest? Asked about Michael Cohen going to Prague, Mueller said he can’t get into it. (The report said he did not go and Cohen testified in February that it never happened.)
- During Robert Mueller's testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee he deferred or declined to answer questions from members of Congress at least 82 times, according to a CNN analysis. Of those instances Mueller referred lawmakers to his report at least 4 times.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the House will seek grand jury material to enforce a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn.
"The very next step either tomorrow or Friday is we're going into court to ask for the grand jury material and to enforce the subpoena against Mr. McGahn. And that's particularly important because the excuses — I won't call them reasons — the excuses the White House gives for McGahn not testifying and the nonsense about absolute immunity etc. are the same excuses for all the other fact witnesses, and if we break that, we break the law," Nadler said.
Some background: In May, the White House instructed former McGahn not to comply with a subpoena for documents Nadler, teeing up the latest in a series of escalating oversight showdowns between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats.
McGahn's decision not to comply with the subpoena could push Nadler to hold McGahn in contempt of Congress, just as he's moving to do with Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department defied a subpoena for the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence.
Asked if the House should launch impeachment proceedings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided answering the question directly, saying they still have some things to sort out.
"My position has always been whatever decision we made in that regard would have to be done with our strongest possible hand, and we still have some outstanding matters in the courts. It's about the Congress, the Constitution and the courts. And we are fighting the President in the courts," she said.
Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, chair of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said at the press conference that, “This is a critical moment in our country's history."
"Don't be fooled. And it is a moment which people will be talking about and reading about three, four hundred, five hundred years from now. And they're going to ask the question, what did you do when we had a president who knew the rules and knew that our founding fathers had done a great job of creating a constitution and had put in all the guardrails but never anticipate that we would have a president that would just throw away the guardrails.”
Cummings called today's hearings a "giant step in making sure that the American people got a picture of all this and, hopefully, will look towards the future and say we’re not going to have this."
"I’m begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on," he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff said the US needs to "harden" its "election defenses" going into the 2020 election.
The comments come after former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before two congressional committees today. Mueller talked about his investigation into Russian election meddling: a topic Schiff said puts America in a "vulnerable" position.
"And so we go into this next election more vulnerable than we should be," Schiff said. "We can't control completely what Russia does, although we must do everything we can to harden our election defenses to make sure there are paper trails, to make sure that we deter and disrupt any kind of Russian intervention, but we cannot control that completely, but we can control what we do."
During his testimony, Mueller said the Russians expect to meddle in the 2020 election.
"It wasn't a single attempt. They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign," Mueller said.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, laid out key lines from Robert Mueller's testimony this evening.
Nadler, speaking at a news conference, said Mueller's report found that President Trump obstructed justice and abused power. He went on to say that Mueller also found Trump benefited from Russia's help.
"Mueller made clear that the President is not exonerated," he said.
Asked by CNN about former special counsel Robert Mueller saying he generally agreed that President Trump's written answers to investigators were not always truthful, Trump claimed Mueller’s answers weren’t truthful.
“I don’t know whose answers weren’t — I guess his (Mueller’s) answers weren’t, because if you look, the whole report, you take a look at what they did. Some of the things that didn’t even know about, some of the things he didn’t even know what was going on. But you know, in the end what he did, he actually probably came through for himself,” Trump said.
He went on to criticize Mueller’s performance.
“The performance was obviously not very good. He had a lot of problems, but what he showed more than anything else is that this whole thing has been three years of embarrassment and waste of time for our country. And you know what, the Democrats thought they could win an election like this. I think they hurt themselves very badly for 2020,” Trump said.
Asked if Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., spoke with Mueller, Trump said he did not know.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know — I don’t know — I mean frankly, whether or not he did it wouldn’t matter to me because he did nothing wrong,” Trump said, calling his son’s June 2016 meeting with Russians “a very unimportant meeting.”